A lot of people still love Hey! Hey! It’s Saturday. Seven wouldn’t have broadcast an almost two-hour tribute to a program made by another network if they didn’t. But it says a lot that last night’s heavily promoted 50th-anniversary show played it extremely safe, keeping the focus on the half-remembered nostalgia of 20+ years ago rather than the reality of what Hey! Hey! was.
What Hey! Hey! was, was the Baby Boomer’s take on what was funny and entertaining. It was white male-oriented, it was often cruel and by the 1990s young people preferred The Late Show, The Big Gig, Frontline and Martin/Molloy. The audience who’d been important to Hey! Hey! when it’d moved to Saturday nights now had cooler things to watch as young adults. Nine realised this and, rightly, axed it.
The late-noughties revival series, most infamous for the Jackson Jive, just confirmed how right Nine had been ten years previously. Comedy was even more different by this point, with new acts getting their start online, so why would that generation of young people want to watch some show which still reeked of the 1980s? Indeed, why would people who’d loved it in the 1980s want to watch it? They had multi-channels and the internet by then.
Oddly enough, the revival series barely got a mention in Hey! Hey! It’s 50 Years. Even Daryl, who defended the shows at the time, knew that post-Black Lives Matter, the less said about that the better.
What we got instead was a well-packaged and reasonably entertaining reminder of the best of Hey! Hey! It’s Saturday – the big stars, the people who’d do unexpected things, the sort of capers you can only getting with a cast of regulars letting loose on live TV, and the one or two decent acts who appeared on Red Faces.
There were appearances from Kylie Minogue, Daryl Braithwaite, James Morrison, Jo Beth Taylor, Marcia Hines, Marty Fields, Trevor Marmalade, Ross Wilson, Pete Smith, Rhonda Burchmore, Brian Mannix, Elliott Goblet, Wilbur Wilde, Red Symons and Jackie McDonald. Molly Meldrum, John Blackman and the Amazing Jonathan reminded us that they’re still going, despite their various medical problems. Raymond J. Bartholomeuz did a new version of his poem. There were tributes to those who can’t be with us – Ernie Carroll and Russell Gilbert – and footage of Ricky May singing the closing theme song, which he wrote.
It was a decent tribute to a show which, in its day, provided a space for a great variety of musicians and comedians, launched a few careers and gave a lot of people a lot of joy. On the other hand, Daryl Somers kept calling anyone female a “girl”, and no one stopped him. At least we’ll, probably, never see Hey! Hey! on TV ever again.